The Burzynski Clinic is a clinic dedicated to treating cancer patients. It is based in Houston, Texas. It pioneers a treatment called antineoplaston therapy.
Except, this treatment isn’t pioneering. It isn’t effective. It does not work. And yet, the Burzynski Clinic continue to profit off it. I am sickened and appalled that cancer patients are being exploited.
The theory behind antineoplaston therapy is that certain peptides were apparently less prevalent in the blood of cancer patients than in healthy control subjects. This was first identified by Stanislaw Burzynski. He then hypothesised that replacing these missing peptides, which he renamed antineoplastons, would be a cure for cancer.
The Burzynski Clinic, which opened in 1977, has been in the news a couple of times recently, first in the case of Laura, a 24-year-old mum, of the Hope For Laura campaign, then more recently in another campaign to get Sean Lyne, a 19-year-old featured in an article in thejournal.ie, to the treatment centre in Houston for the €120,000 antineoplaston therapy.
The Burzynski Clinic promote themselves as offering an “[i]nnovative and cutting-edge Personalized Gene Targeted Cancer Therapy [with] [c]ustomized treatment for over 50 types of malignancies”. However, their antineoplaston treatment has been in clinical trials since it’s inception. Straight away, this shows an intellectual dishonesty on Burzynski’s part – promoting an experimental treatment as if it were effective.
Burzynski’s published research has been criticised by oncologists and scientists alike. Dr Howard Ozer, director of the Allegheny Cancer Center in Philadelphia, called the research “scientific nonsense”. Independent studies failed to replicate Burzynski’s results, suggesting there may be a strong bias in Burzynski’s research. The FDA have not approved the treatment for any diseases. A 2004 analysis of evidence for a number of alternative treatments for cancer, including Burzynski’s own antineoplaston therapy, said that “The label “unproven” is inappropriate for such therapies; it is time to assert that many alternative cancer therapies have been “disproven.”” In short, it’s quackery – ineffective treatment promoted as effective and sold for a very high price.
I hate the idea of taking away someone’s last hope. Even though this is false hope, I still hate taking it away. But imagine if this was your family member, being misled and dragged halfway across the world, being taken away from the majority of their family to spend the last bit of their life being injected with an ineffective treatment every four hours. I would be fuming if this was anyone close to me. The false hope dilemma has been covered before by both Keir Liddle of The 21st Floor and Jennifer Keane, a.k.a ZenBuffy.
When the Burzynski Clinic is in the news, it’s always described as providing a treatment that is unavailable on the NHS. The main reason for this is that it’s in clinical trials. The 17 trials started by Burzynski began in the 1990s and have an estimated end date of 31st December 2011. The other, probably more important reason is that in small studies, it hasn’t proven to be effective. Burzynski’s own research and findings haven’t been replicated.
Burzynski took what was a hypothesis and ran with it. And ran with it. And ran with it some more. He has relentlessly promoted his “investigational” therapy to those who are most vulnerable – those with incurable diseases. This court document states
The district court granted summary judgment for the plaintiff/appellee, the Northwest Laundry and Dry Cleaners Health & Welfare Trust Fund, an ERISA health insurance fund, after finding that the defendant/appellant, Dr. Stanislaw R. Burzynski, had defrauded the plaintiff and violated the terms of the health plan. We agree that the defendant may not trick the plaintiff into paying for an unlawful, unapproved drug.
It is for all these reasons above that I take no issue with calling Stanislaw Burzynski a quack and a fraud.